WRITTEN BY PHILLIP SILVERSTONE
I am pondering the autumn of my wine life and debating which road is the lesser traveled and which can inspire the creative juices that have driven me for so long.
Sadly, the world of wine is no longer the place it once was. Long gone are the privately owned wine importers, the family owned wineries, the colorful characters of the trade passionate about the grape and the nectar it produces. I’ll grant you, there is a scattering of independent wine companies and vineyards out there, somewhere, but the dominating force in the wine world is the dreaded “C” word: Corporate. The lovely, gentle, poetic, romantic world of wine, is now powered by big shiny conglomerate headquarters and a young, dressed-down generation, preoccupied with bottom line number crunching rather than vineyard grape stomping.
I remember my early days in the world of wine, when I could pick up a phone and speak to the vineyard manager, the winemaker or the winery owner … even the owner of the import company of the brand in the USA. Today, my calls are fielded by PR and communications directors and all types of impressive titles who wouldn’t know a Cabernet if it put a ring in its plastic cork, tattooed its label and downloaded itself into their glass. I’m disappointed and saddened by the decline of the industry. I’m all for change and modernization, but the world of wine has become a dull place to live, a personality-challenged industry.
I don’t want the world of wine to appeal to anyone who finds the Kardashians interesting, or Justin Bieber talented, or politicians charismatic. I want the world of wine to remain a haven for quirky, eccentric, passionate individuals, who shied away from the real world and chose a profession for colorful “black sheep.” After all, the entire British wine trade was at one time populated by offspring who were hopeless at any profession requiring cunning or street smarts, so they found solace in the wine business. Serious lunches and handshakes were all it took to consummate deals, rather than reams of signatures and the expensive cologne of a lawyer hovering over the room.
My philosophy has always been: Drink wine because you enjoy it, and don’t spend a fortune on it and think about what’s in the bottle, not what’s on the bottom line. That was an easy philosophy when the world of wine was a small island. Now it’s a vast continent and governed by big business, my philosophy is now an anachronism. But hey! Do I care? No I don’t. I have a successful satellite radio show, with listeners in 120 countries. I’m meeting very cool people, including Jill Weber, who does the weekly wine feature on my show with me, and she is the coolest person in the Philadelphia wine world that I know. And I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had in a long, illustrious career. I was one of the original players on the stage of our region’s wine industry. Now we’re watching all the understudies playing at it. And once the PLCB is banished and the wine consumers of Pennsylvania are liberated, I have a feeling we’ll see some personalities emerge and I might even enjoy the wine world again. Cheers!
Phillip Silverstone’s column appears regularly in this publication. “Time Out With Phillip Silverstone” is a weekly two-hour podcast heard exclusively on TuneIn radio anytime and anywhere worldwide either on the free TuneIn app for all smart phones and tablets (Search: Phillip Silverstone) or online on Tunein at: http://bit.ly/1gY2Ht4. “Follow” the show for weekly updates. You can also LIKE Phillip on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Phillipsilverstone and follow him on Twitter: @wining